A group of Orthodox Jewish organizations has sued to stop New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's new coronavirus-related restrictions, saying he violated their constitutional rights and “explicitly targeted” the Orthodox Jewish community with the restrictions on gatherings in houses of worship. In a federal suit filed Thursday, less than 24 hours after a journalist was allegedly assaulted by a crowd of protesting Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, the Orthodox Jewish organization Agudath Israel and its associates, including two rabbis, claim Cuomo's new COVID-19 restrictions aimed at quelling outbreaks in primarily Hasidic neighborhoods violate the First Amendment right to religious freedom.
The suit notes that Cuomo's restrictions came 48 hours prior to Oct. 9, the start of Hoshanah Rabbah and two subsequent Orthodox Jewish holidays that use special prayers during in-person worship services. It also argues that synagogues sufficiently adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, including social distancing, masking requirements and capacity limitation. A spokesman for Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, told The Wall Street Journal the new restrictions are aimed solely at stopping the spread of the virus in areas where cases are on the rise. “We’ve been sued virtually every day for every action taken. We’re concentrating on reducing the virus in these hot spots and saving lives, period,” he said.